It may have taken slightly longer than expected, but the irrepressible winning machine that Jurgen Klopp has meticulously fine-tuned over the past couple of years eventually rolled on at Anfield on Sunday.
Liverpool are red-hot right now, and Europe’s form team were expected to brush a woefully uninspiring Everton aside with ease to keep their remarkable quadruple hopes alive. But while the Reds pinched the points they desperately needed against their sorry rivals, they didn’t have it all their own way.
Not for the first time, Klopp was forced to call on his very own super-sub, Divock Origi. The Belgian striker’s priceless impact after coming off the bench for the final knockings of the clash is likely to be the footnote of his remarkable story at Liverpool as he approaches his Anfield curtain call in the coming weeks.
The Reds now have an attacking arsenal that is the envy of Europe after the £37million capture of Luis Diaz earlier this year. That strength in depth is present throughout the squad, in truth – but it could well be that Liverpool’s unsung understudies are called upon to drive Klopp’s side on in their pursuit of history.
The Reds chief was quick to sing the praises of his forgotten men after the crucial win over Everton, where he admitted that fresh formations and different players were key to bumping off their stubborn neighbours. And his words were enough to hint that the likes of Origi – who is certain to depart Anfield in the summer when his deal expires – could still have the opportunity to make the biggest impact of all in the coming weeks as the fixtures pile up.
He said: “The group lives because of the boys that don’t always play, they are the strongest players ever; [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain, [Harvey] Elliott, [Takumi] Minamino, even Rhys Williams. They are in great shape, but the way they behave is why we do these kind of things.”
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Few would have picked Origi to be the man to save Liverpool when they threatened to come unstuck against the Toffees. If we’re being blunt, Klopp has options that far transcend the ability and nous of the back-up striker. It’s a similar story in midfield now that Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita have finally found their rhythm after transitioning from the Bundesliga in recent years.
But there are no guarantees in football – even Mohamed Salah has drawn blanks in recent weeks, underling just how important Liverpool’s ridiculously remarkable squad is likely to be in the coming weeks.
It would be foolish to bet against the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Harvey Elliott and Takumi Minamino all having a significant part to play in the coming weeks – starting on Wednesday as Liverpool look to negotiate a tricky Champions League semi-final against Villarreal. The Reds have more history than most in Europe’s most famous competition – but Klopp’s side bid for glory is being blocked by knockout mastermind Unai Emery, who is a serial winner in Europe.
The Champions League is a different beast altogether, and Liverpool are set to have their hands full, going again just days after such a taxing encounter against their local rivals. And after fresh legs – and surprise faces – made such an impact against Everton, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Klopp shuffle his pack against Emery and his unfancied squad.
It’s highly unlikely that Liverpool will encounter a squad that can match the strength of their squad between now and May. Klopp now has more than a handful of aces up his sleeve – but trusting those who have maybe been nudged towards the back of the deck recently could make all the difference in the remaining nine games that stand between his side and history.